One young Frenchman has lit a torch in MotoGP in 2019. Fabio Quartararo, aged 20, hasn’t quite won a race yet. But a tally of five front-row starts (including three poles) in the first nine races, plus podium finishes in the last two, have made a huge impact.
The youngster from Nice rides a second-string satellite-team Yamaha, but regularly out-qualifies and frequently out-races seasoned factory riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales.
He’s narrowly missed the chance to displace Marc Marquez as the youngest-ever premier-class GP winner; Marquez in turn took that title in 2013, from fresh-faced 1980s star “Fast Freddie” Spencer.
Youth is no drawback. But some seasoned rivals are wondering if it’s too much too soon.
Quartararo, brought in under age after dominating the Spanish junior Moto3 class, hasn’t come from nowhere. But he didn’t dazzle in four years in the smaller classes, with just one Moto2 win last year. Marquez and Rossi before him won titles in both smaller classes.
Fabio’s impact on MotoGP has been out of all proportion.
As Marquez said, a dig at the embattled factory riders: “Fabio is showing the true potential of the Yamaha.”
Following on, many commentators have cast the Frenchman in the role of “the next Marquez”.
He should ignore these comments. Two years ago, compatriot Johann Zarco – the first to successfully defend a Moto2 crown – made a similarly bright premier-class start. Things got tough in year two, and even tougher now he has switched from Yamaha to newcomers KTM.
Quartararo hasn’t proved everything yet.